Pakistan’s cricket team are staging a resurgence in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup. After losing their opening game to the West Indies, they defeated hosts and title favourites England before their game against Sri Lanka was washed out. They lost games to India and Australia before winning the games against South Africa and New Zealand. Their run is pretty similar to 1992 when they lost their opening game to West Indies, won against Zimbabwe and had their game against England washed out. After losing to South Africa and India, Imran Khan, the-then skipper spoke about the need to fight like ‘Cornered Tigers’. They won all their games and won the title in grand style.
Following the loss to India, the Pakistan team were criticised heavily with many fans directing plenty of personal abuse towards Sarfaraz Ahmed, the skipper. Nothing positive was written by the Pakistani media, prompting coach Mickey Arthur and bowling coach Azhar Mahmood to say that a person would be pushed to ‘commit suicide.’ However, Pakistan is staging a resurgence with wins over South Africa and New Zealand.
The pattern of wins has prompted many articles as to how similar Pakistan’s progress in 2019 is similar to 1992. One article on ESPNCricinfo went one step further, highlighting the similar geopolitical and social situations which existed at that time, making it eerie and confounding. However, apart from all the similar situations regarding the match and outside factors in 1992 and 2019, one factor has remained constant which will serve Pakistan in the long run. Speaking after the end of the match against New Zealand, Sarfaraz highlighted this factor. “Whenever Pakistan team is pushed to the corner, we do well,” the Pakistan skipper remarked
Cornered Tigers 2?
If one reads into the trends deeper regarding Pakistan’s coincidence in 1992 and 2019, it is their ability to bounce back once they are pushed into a corner. Pakistan is well on course for a semi-final berth in the 2019 World Cup after winning just one game out of five at the start. In 1992, they were staring at elimination after winning just one game out of five. Being pushed to the corner and on the brink of elimination, Pakistan won against Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand to enter the semi-final. In the last four, they beat New Zealand again and got the better of England to win their first title.
In 2019, they are on course for a semi-final and victories over Afghanistan and Bangladesh will put them in pole position. If England lose one of their games and Sri Lanka do not win all their games, they will enter the last four.
If one has to extend this beyond the World Cups, the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy and the 2009 ICC World T20 are classic cases. In the 2017 Champions Trophy, Pakistan was staring down the barrel after losing to India and South Africa defeated Sri Lanka by a big margin. After defeating South Africa barely due to the rain, they needed a win against Sri Lanka and a spirited performance from Sarfaraz Ahmed saw Pakistan win by three wickets. Pakistan defeated England and then went on to beat India in the final to complete the set of ICC trophies. From almost being eliminated, Pakistan went on to win the title.
In the 2009 World T20, Pakistan was on the brink of elimination twice. They lost to England in the league stage but defeated the Netherlands by a massive margin to enter the next round. After losing to Sri Lanka, Pakistan reached the semis by winning against New Zealand and Ireland. They beat South Africa and then got the better of Sri Lanka in the final to win the World T20 for the first time.
Thus, this trend IS TRUE. If Pakistan is pushed to a corner in an ICC, they will bounce back and do something spectacular. It happened in 1992. It happened in 2009 and 2017. In 2019, will they repeat it again?